Paul Snowden先生のEnglish Angles on Japan

Paul Snowden先生のEnglish Angles on Japan


(12) This is an example; this is an idea; this is a suggestion; this is a proposal.

This summer, I accompanied some groups of students to Oxford and Cambridge for language study courses there. One morning at breakfast, some students were talking about all the fruit that was in a big basket on the table. They were trying to show their teacher that they knew a lot of English words for fruit. Their dialogue went something like this:

(警告!真似するな!間違いだらけ!)
Teacher:  Do you know what kind of fruit this is?
Student 1: Yes, this is apple.
Teacher:  Right. It's an apple. How about this one?
Student 2: This is banana.
Teacher:  Yes, it's a banana. And this one?
Student 3: It's pear.
スノードン:ショック!!!ひどい!!!Shocking!!! Terrible!!! Awful!!! 幼稚園時代からずっと"This is a pen."って知っているくせ、なぜ今不定冠詞を付けないんですか???

Well, maybe I overreacted, but the point I want to make is this:
If you have learned a new item of grammar, or vocabulary, or even pronunciation, make sure that you use it as often as possible, as soon as you have learned it.

Of course, "This is a pen." Is a useless sentence in most circumstances, but all Japanese people know it, and therefore, it should be able to help them when they want to make up some more useful sentences. Why didn't my students say "This is AN apple; this is A banana; it's A pear."??? The reason is probably that they didn't have a sufficient habit of practising every new item with many examples, in many useful circumstances. So, please remember to practise, practise, practise, with lots and lots and lots of examples.

Imagine this case: you have a guest from overseas, and you are helping him or her to get to know Japanese life and culture. Then you can use "This is a pen の文法" in many sentences:
This is a map of Tokyo. / This is a thousand-yen bill. / This is a ramen shop. etc. etc.

Also, the same grammar is used in abstract cases:
This is a shock. / This is a surprise. / This is a disappointment. etc. etc.

The same is true with more difficult grammar. Don't think, "これで大体わかった。覚えておこう。次は何?" Instead, use that difficult grammar point as often as you can in the next few hours or the next few days. Invent your own individual situations, and make up sentences around them. Imagine you have been studying 仮定法の過去完了: "If they had said 'This is A banana,' I would have been satisfied". Immediately use it at least three times for your own situation. If you go into Building 10 for your next lesson, think to yourself: "I have just entered Building 10. If I had gone into Building 11 instead, I would have got lost. If I had not come into Building 10, I would not have been able to find my classroom. If I had come into Building 10 at the wrong time, I would not have found my friends." Use your own imagination to suit your own situation. Don't be satisfied with the examples in textbooks.

The same is true with vocabulary. When you learn a word, use it repeatedly as soon as possible. For example, if you have just learned the word thesaurus (類義語辞典), pick up your textbook and say, "This is not a thesaurus," then say, "A thesaurus is not a dinosaur," then say, "If I had bought a thesaurus yesterday, I would have spent a lot of money," and so on and so on.

Even with pronunciation, practise, practise and practise difficult sounds that you learn. If you think the "th" sound in thesaurus is difficult, practise a lot of words that contain the same sound. Practise that sound at the beginning of words: three, thought, thick; in the middle of words: unthinking, sympathetic, monthly; then at the end of words: fourth, fifth, sixth. Next practise words that contain both the "th" sound and the "s" sound: thesaurus, thistle; months. Then make up long sentences which contain the sound in many positions: A theatrical theme is one of the strengths of The Three Sisters.

Only this kind of self-training will guarantee your improvement.


(2001年10月11日掲載)